Measuring inconsistency in research ethics committee review.
ABSTRACT: The review of human participant research by Research Ethics Committees (RECs) or Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) is a complex multi-faceted process that cannot be reduced to an algorithm. However, this does not give RECs/ IRBs permission to be inconsistent in their specific requirements to researchers or in their final opinions. In England the Health Research Authority (HRA) coordinates 67 committees, and has adopted a consistency improvement plan including a process called "Shared Ethical Debate" (ShED) where multiple committees review the same project. Committee reviews are compared for consistency by analysing the resulting minutes.We present a description of the ShED process. We report an analysis of minutes created by research ethics committees participating in two ShED exercises, and compare them to minutes produced in a published "mystery shopper" exercise. We propose a consistency score by defining top themes for each exercise, and calculating the ratio between top themes and total themes identified by each committee for each ShED exercise.Our analysis highlights qualitative differences between the ShED 19, ShED 20 and "mystery shopper" exercises. The quantitative measure of consistency showed only one committee across the three exercises with more than half its total themes as top themes (ratio of 0.6). The average consistency scores for the three exercises were 0.23 (ShED19), 0.35 (ShED20) and 0.32 (mystery shopper). There is a statistically significant difference between the ShED 19 exercise, and the ShED 20 and mystery shopper exercises.ShED exercises are effective in identifying inconsistency between ethics committees and we describe a scoring method that could be used to quantify this. However, whilst a level of inconsistency is probably inevitable in research ethics committee reviews, studies must move beyond the ShED methodology to understand why inconsistency occurs, and what an acceptable level of inconsistency might be.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Since 2010, the European Journal of Anaesthesiology has required the reporting of five items concerning ethical approval in articles describing human research: ethics committee's name and address, chairperson's name, study's protocol number and approval date. We aimed to assess whether this requirement has helped to identify and to contact the referenced ethics committees. METHODS:In this cross-sectional study, we analysed articles requiring ethical approval, according to the Swiss federal law for human research and published in the European Journal of Anaesthesiology in 2011. Ethics committees were searched through our institutional Internet access based on information provided in the articles. The last search was performed in November 2015. Numbers (%) of items reported, of ethics committees identified, and of those that confirmed having provided ethical approval are reported. RESULTS:Of 76 articles requiring ethical approval, 74 (97%) declared it. Ethics committees' names and addresses were mentioned in 63/74 (85%), protocol numbers in 51/74 (69%), approval dates in 48/74 (65%), and chairpersons' names in 45/74 (61%). We could identify 44/74 (59%) committees; 36/74 (49%) answered our inquiry and 24/74 (32%) confirmed their role. Thirty-four of 74 articles (46%) reported all five items; in 25/34 (74%), we were able to identify an ethics committee, 18/34 (53%) answered our inquiry, and 15/34 (44%) confirmed their role. Forty of 74 articles (54%) reported ?4 items; in 19/40 (48%), we were able to identify an ethics committee, 18/40 (45%) answered our inquiry, and 9/40 (23%) confirmed their role. Reporting five items significantly increased identification of ethics committees (p?=?0.023) and their confirmation of ethical approval (p?=?0.048). Twelve of 74 ethics committees (16%) were unable to confirm their role in approving the study. CONCLUSIONS:Even when details concerning ethical approval were reported in these studies of human research, we were unable to identify almost half of the ethics committees concerned. The reporting of five items, compared with reporting ?4, was associated with facilitated identification of ethics committees, and increased the likelihood that they would be able to confirm the study's approval. Future research should identify which information facilitates identification of, and contact with, ethics committees.
Project description:The review of requests for a positive opinion of the ethics committees (application procedure) as a requirement to start a clinical trial in Germany has been completely redesigned with the transposition of EU Directive 2001/20/EC in the 12(th) Amendment of the German Medicines Act in August 2004. The experience of applicants (sponsors, legal representatives of sponsors in the EU and persons or organizations authorized by the sponsors to make the application, respectively) in terms of interactions with the ethics committees in Germany has been positive overall, especially with respect to ethics committee adherence to the statutory timelines applicable for review of requests. However, inconsistencies between ethics committees exist in terms of the form and content of the requirements for application documents and their evaluation. With the objective of further improving both the quality of applications and the evaluation of those applications by ethics committees, a survey among members of the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA) was conducted from January to April 2008. Based on reasoned opinions issued by the respective ethics committee in charge of the coordinating principal investigator (coordinating ethics committee), the type and frequency of formal and content-related objections to applications according to section sign 7 of the German Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Regulation were systematically documented, and qualitative and quantitative analyses performed. 21 out of 44 members of the VFA participated in the survey. 288 applications for Phase I-IV studies submitted between January and December 2007 to 40 ethics committees were evaluated. This survey shows that about one in six applications is incomplete and has formal and/or content objections, respectively, especially those that pertain to documents demonstrating the qualification of the investigator and/or suitability of the facilities. These objections are attributable to some extent to the differing and/or unclear requirements of the individual ethics committees on the content and comprehension of the submission documents. However, applicants also need to pay more attention to the completeness and validity of the submission documents. The majority of content-related objections apply to the patient information and consent documents and study protocols submitted. Applicants on average acted upon only 3 out of 4 objections, for various reasons: the relevant information was already given in the submitted documents, but had not been taken into consideration by the ethics committees; objections were not applicable; objections lacked a legal basis. In such cases the applicants made reference to the specific information already submitted or gave reasons for not acting on the objection. This course of action was accepted by the ethics committees, with few exceptions. The survey sheds light on the existing inconsistencies in the evaluations of applications by the various ethics committees and suggests ways in which the existing constructive dialogue between applicants and ethics committees may provide a basis to further harmonize both the requirements regarding form and content of application documents, and the criteria for evaluation of applications by ethics committees within the legal framework.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The exportation of unethical practices to low- and middle-income countries ("Ethics Dumping") has been conceived as a prevalent practice which needs to be examined more closely. Such a practice might point towards the exploitation of vulnerable population groups. We conducted a survey among Mexican research ethics committee members to explore the issue of ethics dumping in Mexico by understanding how its existence and contributing factors and norms are perceived by these ethics committee members.<h4>Method</h4>We designed an exploratory survey based on a five-point Likert scale, following an established, validated and published methodology. The questionnaire included both open close-ended questions. The aspects covered in the questionnaire were introductory questions on the existence of ethical issues; general perception on ethics dumping in Mexico; lack of voluntariness, undue inducement, and therapeutic misconception as exploitation risks; existence of exploitative practices; norms facilitating ethics dumping; acceptable levels of benefit to Mexico; boundaries of ethics dumping. The survey was administered to a sample of research ethics committee members from public and private Mexican hospitals in 2016.<h4>Results</h4>Most of the ethics committee members believed clinical trials are generally ethically sound, though almost a majority think that ethics dumping is a common occurrence and that it is a serious issue. Most agree that ethics dumping needs to be addressed. They also identified other issues such as ethical issues related to patient participation and ethics committees. Further, most committee members agree that undue inducement and therapeutic misconception affect voluntariness, and that both individuals and communities receive appropriate benefits.<h4>Conclusion</h4>From the perspective of Mexican research ethics committee members, ethics dumping commonly exists in Mexican clinical trials, as well as several related issues such as ethical issues on patient participation and ethics committees, as well as voluntariness issues. Further, most members believed these issues need to be addressed. However, most were also of the opinion that clinical trials are generally ethically compliant. This points to the need for further studies on the reasons for these perspectives.
Project description:Between 2013 and 2016, West Africa experienced the largest ever outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease. In the absence of registered treatments or vaccines to control this lethal disease, the World Health Organization coordinated and supported research to expedite identification of interventions that could control the outbreak and improve future control efforts. Consequently, the World Health Organization Research Ethics Review Committee (WHO-ERC) was heavily involved in reviews and ethics discussions. It reviewed 24 new and 22 amended protocols for research studies including interventional (drug, vaccine) and observational studies.WHO-ERC provided the reviews within on average 6 working days. The WHO-ERC often could not provide immediate approval of protocols for reasons which were not Ebola Virus Disease specific but related to protocol inconsistencies, missing information and complex informed consents. WHO-ERC considerations on Ebola Virus Disease specific issues (benefit-risk assessment, study design, exclusion of pregnant women and children from interventional studies, data and sample sharing, collaborative partnerships including international and local researchers and communities, community engagement and participant information) are presented.To accelerate study approval in future public health emergencies, we recommend: (1) internally consistent and complete submissions with information documents in language participants are likely to understand, (2) close collaboration between local and international researchers from research inception, (3) generation of template agreements for data and sample sharing and use during the ongoing global consultations on bio-banks, (4) formation of Joint Scientific Advisory and Data Safety Review Committees for all studies linked to a particular intervention or group of interventions, (5) formation of a Joint Ethics Review Committee with representatives of the Ethics Committees of all institutions and countries involved to strengthen reviews through the different perspectives provided without the 'opportunity costs' for time to final approval of multiple, independent reviews, (6) direct information exchange between the chairs of advisory, safety review and ethics committees, (7) more Ethics Committee support for investigators than is standard and (8) a global consultation on criteria for inclusion of pregnant women and children in interventional studies for conditions which put them at particularly high risk of mortality or other irreversible adverse outcomes under standard-of-care.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Faculty and students debate the fairness and accuracy of medical student clerkship grades. Group decision-making is a potential strategy to improve grading. OBJECTIVE:To explore how one school's grading committee members integrate assessment data to inform grade decisions and to identify the committees' benefits and challenges. DESIGN:This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with grading committee chairs and members conducted between November 2017 and March 2018. PARTICIPANTS:Participants included the eight core clerkship directors, who chaired their grading committees. We randomly selected other committee members to invite, for a maximum of three interviews per clerkship. APPROACH:Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using inductive content analysis. KEY RESULTS:We interviewed 17 committee members. Within and across specialties, committee members had distinct approaches to prioritizing and synthesizing assessment data. Participants expressed concerns about the quality of assessments, necessitating careful scrutiny of language, assessor identity, and other contextual factors. Committee members were concerned about how unconscious bias might impact assessors, but they felt minimally impacted at the committee level. When committee members knew students personally, they felt tension about how to use the information appropriately. Participants described high agreement within their committees; debate was more common when site directors reviewed students' files from other sites prior to meeting. Participants reported multiple committee benefits including faculty development and fulfillment, as well as improved grading consistency, fairness, and transparency. Groupthink and a passive approach to bias emerged as the two main threats to optimal group decision-making. CONCLUSIONS:Grading committee members view their practices as advantageous over individual grading, but they feel limited in their ability to address grading fairness and accuracy. Recommendations and support may help committees broaden their scope to address these aspirations.
Project description:Health committees are a common strategy to foster community participation in health. Efforts to strengthen committees often focus on technical inputs to improve committee form (e.g. representative membership) and functioning (e.g. meeting procedures). However, porous and interconnected contextual spheres also mediate committee effectiveness. Using a framework for contextual analysis, we explored the contextual features that facilitated or hindered Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC) functionality in rural north India. We conducted interviews (n = 74), focus groups (n = 18) and observation over 1.5 years. Thematic content analysis enabled the identification and grouping of themes, and detailed exploration of sub-themes. While the intervention succeeded in strengthening committee form and functioning, participant accounts illuminated the different ways in which contextual influences impinged on VHSNC efficacy. Women and marginalized groups navigated social hierarchies that curtailed their ability to assert themselves in the presence of men and powerful local families. These dynamics were not static and unchanging, illustrated by pre-existing cross-caste problem solving, and the committee's creation of opportunities for the careful violation of social norms. Resource and capacity deficits in government services limited opportunities to build relationships between health system actors and committee members and engendered mistrust of government institutions. Fragmented administrative accountability left committee members bearing responsibility for improving local health without access to stakeholders who could support or respond to their efforts. The committee's narrow authority was at odds with widespread community needs, and committee members struggled to involve diverse government services across the health, sanitation, and nutrition sectors. Multiple parallel systems (political decentralization, media and other village groups) presented opportunities to create more enabling VHSNC contexts, although the potential to harness these opportunities was largely unmet. This study highlights the urgent need for supportive contexts in which people can not only participate in health committees, but also access the power and resources needed to bring about actual improvements to their health and wellbeing.
Project description:The recent research and technology development in medical genomics has raised new issues that are profoundly different from those encountered in traditional clinical research for which informed consent was developed. Global initiatives for international collaboration and public participation in genomics research now face an increasing demand for new forms of informed consent which reflect local contexts. This article analyzes informed consent forms (ICFs) for genomic research formulated by four selected research programs and institutes in East Asia - the Medical Genome Science Program in Japan, Universiti Sains Malaysia Human Research Ethics Committee in Malaysia, and the Taiwan Biobank and the Taipei Medical University- Joint Institutional Review Board in Taiwan. The comparative text analysis highlights East Asian contexts as distinct from other regions by identifying communicative and social functions of consent forms. The communicative functions include re-contact options and offering interactive support for research participants, and setting opportunities for family or community engagement in the consent process. This implies that informed consent cannot be validated solely with the completion of a consent form at the initial stage of the research, and informed consent templates can facilitate interactions between researchers and participants through (even before and after) the research process. The social functions consist of informing participants of possible social risks that include genetic discrimination, sample and data sharing, and highlighting the role of ethics committees. Although international ethics harmonization and the subsequent coordination of consent forms may be necessary to maintain the quality and consistency of consent process for data-intensive international research, it is also worth paying more attention to the local values and different settings that exist where research participants are situated for research in medical genomics. More than simply tools to gain consent from research participants, ICFs function rather as a device of social communication between research communities and civic communities in liaison with intermediary agents like ethics committees, genetic counselors, and public biobanks and databases.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Recent cohort studies of randomised controlled trials have provided evidence of within-study selective reporting bias; where statistically significant outcomes are more likely to be more completely reported compared to non-significant outcomes. Bias resulting from selective reporting can impact on meta-analyses, influencing the conclusions of systematic reviews, and in turn, evidence based clinical practice guidelines.In 2006 we received funding to investigate if there was evidence of within-study selective reporting in a cohort of RCTs submitted to New Zealand Regional Ethics Committees in 1998/99. This research involved accessing ethics applications, their amendments and annual reports, and comparing these with corresponding publications. We did not plan to obtain informed consent from trialists to view their ethics applications for practical and scientific reasons. In November 2006 we sought ethical approval to undertake the research from our institutional ethics committee. The Committee declined our application on the grounds that we were not obtaining informed consent from the trialists to view their ethics application. This initiated a seventeen month process to obtain ethical approval. This publication outlines what we planned to do, the issues we encountered, discusses the legal and ethical issues, and presents some potential solutions. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Methodological research such as this has the potential for public benefit and there is little or no harm for the participants (trialists) in undertaking it. Further, in New Zealand, there is freedom of information legislation, which in this circumstance, unambiguously provided rights of access and use of the information in the ethics applications. The decision of our institutional ethics committee defeated this right and did not recognise the nature of this observational research. Methodological research, such as this, can be used to develop processes to improve quality in research reporting. Recognition of the potential benefit of this research in the broader research community, and those who sit on ethics committees, is perhaps needed. In addition, changes to the ethical review process which involve separation between those who review proposals to undertake methodological research using ethics applications, and those with responsibility for reviewing ethics applications for trials, should be considered. Finally, we contend that the research community could benefit from quality improvement approaches used in allied sectors.
Project description:Ethics are the moral values of human behavior and the principles which govern these values. The situation becomes challenging for a doctor when he assumes the role of researcher. The doctor-researcher has to serve both the roles and at times the zeal of an investigator has the potential to cloud the morality of the physician inside. It is very important to realize that exploiting the faith of patients is an offence that tantamount to a crime. Medical science is one discipline where the advancement of knowledge is hugely guided by research and mankind has benefitted from many experiments. However benefit and risk are the two faces of the same coin. Various unethical human experiments made us realize that the whims of researchers need to be reined and led to the evolution of the first guidelines for researcher, the Nuremberg code. Thereafter the Good Clinical Practice guidelines serve as the guiding doctrine of clinical research. The principles of ethics rest on the four pillars of autonomy, beneficence, justice, non-maleficence and recently two more pillars are added which includes, confidentiality and honesty. Ethics committees serve as a guardian of these principles. The multidisciplinary Ethics Committee ensures a competent review of the ethical aspects of the project proposal submitted and does it free from any bias or external influence. Ethical review of clinical trial applications follows a decentralized process in India, and requires Ethics Committee approval for each trial site. All Ethics committees have to be registered with Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) without which they cannot approve any clinical trial protocol and has come into effect from 25th February 2013.
Project description:The function of medical school entities that determine student advancement or dismissal has gone largely unexplored. The decision making of 'academic progress' or student promotions committees is examined using a theoretical framework contrasting ethics of justice and care, with roots in the moral development work of theorists Kohlberg and Gilligan.To ascertain promotions committee members' conceptualisation of the role of their committee, ethical orientations used in member decision making, and student characteristics most influential in that decision making.An electronic survey was distributed to voting members of promotions committees at 143 accredited allopathic medical schools in the USA. Descriptive statistics were calculated and data were analysed by gender, role, institution type and class size.Respondents included 241 voting members of promotions committees at 55 medical schools. Respondents endorsed various promotions committee roles, including acting in the best interest of learners' future patients and graduating highly qualified learners. Implementing policy was assigned lower importance. The overall pattern of responses did not indicate a predominant orientation toward an ethic of justice or care. Respondents indicated that committees have discretion to take individual student characteristics into consideration during deliberations, and that they do so in practice. Among the student characteristics with the greatest influence on decision making, professionalism and academic performance were paramount. Eighty-five per cent of participants indicated that they received no training.Promotions committee members do not regard orientations of justice and care as being mutually exclusive and endorse an array of statements regarding the committee's purpose that may conflict with one another. The considerable variance in the influence of student characteristics and the general absence of committee member training indicate a need for clear delineation of the medical profession's priorities in terms of justice and care, and of the specific student characteristics that should factor into deliberations.